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Historic Phoenix, Arizona newspaper transcriptions
Arizona Republic, Wednesday Morning, April 9, 1941, by James Barney
As communities became established through the thinly-settled territory, nearby burial grounds were set apart where Christian sepulcher could be given to those whose earthly life had run its course. As a general rule, these pioneer cemeteries were located but a short distance from camp or settlement, partly because in the very early days it was extremely dangerous to go far from any community and partly because it was never thought by those who lived in the lonely and primitive settlements that they would ever grow in size or population. So it was with the little village of Phoenix.
The first natural death to occur within the limits of the Phoenix townsite was that of Cassandra Smith, daughter of William M. Smith, who opened in the early summer of 1871 the first store within the townsite.
A quote from one of the territorial newspapers of that day:
“Died - In the Town of Phoenix on Friday, September 27th, 1872, after an illness of two days, Cassandra, the youngest child of William and Fanny Smith.
“Cassandra was an interesting little girl, intelligent, pretty and affectionate, and the first American to die a natural death in this town. The community turned out on Saturday to pay a last tribute of respect to the departed, the Hon. Charles a Tweed reading a chapter from the Bible and making an appropriate address, thanking at the same time the friends present, on behalf of the mourners.”
The first death by violence that occurred in this vicinity was on August 2, 1869, when James Smith, a member of the Swilling party, shot to death James Nelson and then escaped to the northern part of the territory where, presumably, he joined a band of marauding Indians and was never brought to justice for his bloody deed.
From scattered records and hazy reminiscences, it seems that the first burials after the establishment of the townsite (in the latter part of 1870) were made in the southwest of the little village. This tendency may have been brought about by the fact that the business expansion of the early Phoenix was to the east of the townsite center rather than to the west - a condition which is quite evident even today. The town of Phoenix was incorporated into a city on February 25, 1881, and, in the Phoenix Herald of April 23, that same year, appears an editorial explaining the new government that Phoenix was about to assume. Among other things, it states that, “… the council is empowered to take all necessary steps in a cemetery matter.”
The above statement indicates that the ever-present “cemetery problem” was a pressing one at that time in Phoenix and had already reached the legislative halls of the territorial capitol.
The original city charter gave the common council of the city control of the finances and all the property belonging to the city and to provide for the enclosing, improving and protecting of public grounds and cemeteries of the city; to plant trees on the same; to establish and regulate all cemeteries; to remove the same and the bodies contained therein to such a place outside of the city’s limits as they may provide. The first City Council elected on May 6, 1881 included George F Coats, Mayor; George H. N. Luhrs, W. F. McNulty, John R. Loosley, O. L. Mahoney, councilmen; M. Mitchell, treasurer; and Henry Garfias, marshal.
All of the above officials had much to do with the establishment of a new cemetery for Phoenix, as well as with the removal of the bodies from the old to the new burial ground.
When Phoenix became a city, the cemetery it then found upon its hands was located in the southwest corner of the old townsite, on blocks 57 & 58—approximately between Jackson and Madison streets and Fifth and Seventh avenues. In time that section of the city became built up and agitation was started for the removal of the cemetery to some location outside the city limits. The question of removal became so acute that Phoenix officials were finally compelled to take action in order to meet the urgent demands of the city’s residents.
June 11, 1884, the following action was taken by the common council of Phoenix concerning a cemetery:
“ On a motion, a committee consisting of the mayor and two members of the council was appointed to see about a cemetery for the city. Messrs. Loosley and McNulty were appointed members of said committee.”
On July 7, 1884, the following proceedings took place before the common council:
“The proposition of Jerry Millay (attorney) in regard to a cemetery was received, considered and on motion of Mr. Mahoney accepted, and the mayor authorized to sign a contract according to said proposition.”
On July 17, 1884, Attorney Millay recorded a deed in which he appears as grantee to the west one half of Block 32, Neahr’s Addition. To this location he removed the bodies in the potters field of the old cemetery and, apparently, carried out his part of the agreement to the satisfaction of the city authorities for, on October 6, 1884, his contract with the city was declared completed and he was paid the sum of $300 for his work.
In the meantime Mayor Coats had appointed a committee from his official family to consider ways and means for removal of all bodies from the old cemetery to some new location outside the city. This committee reported back to the council on September 27, 1884 that the proposition of John R. Loosley for the removal of all bodies to the new cemetery had been the best received by the committee. Another committee- consisting of Mayor Coats and Councilmen McNulty and Luhrs- was then appointed with full powers to act to supervise the removal of bodies. In the interim, Messrs. Millay and Loosley had evidently come to some sort of an agreement as to the location of the new cemetery, for, on October 8, 1884, Millay deeded to Loosley all of the west one half of Block 32 Neahr’s Addition in which he had previously established a potters field.
Under the direction of Mr Loosley, the removal of the bodies commenced. The exact date is not now known, but it must have been about the year 1885. The first burials were made in the north part of the cemetery, near Madison street. A great many of the graves in the old cemetery were beyond identification, and Mr. Loosley buried all of these remains in two large common graves in the new location.
On October 3, 1887, the city council ordered the former cemetery, Blocks 57 & 58 of the old townsite devoted to other purposes and recorded that no burials have been made there for two years.
On April 26, 1888, Judge DeForest Porter, then mayor of Phoenix, deeded Blocks 57 & 58… It had always belonged to the City of Phoenix to School instruction and school purposes. On the ground was built what was known as the West End School that opened in 1889. It was destroyed by a conflagration of incendiary origin on June 30, 1912.
It is said by some of the older residents of Phoenix, that when the trenches for the foundation walls of the West End School were being excavated, workmen uncovered several old graves that had been overlooked during the original removal of bodies by Mssrs. Millay and Loosley. The remains were, of course, gathered and reinterred in the city cemetery.
Wm. A. Hancock is now engaged in surveying and laying off the ground for the new cemetery. As soon as the plot is made out, we shall endeavor to give a full description.
Arizona Gazette, Friday, November 2, 1883:
This is All Saints Day. Early Mass was celebrated for the souls of all the dead who have died in the faith, at the Catholic Church this morning, and prayers repeated in the cemetery at 3 o’clock this afternoon. In Italy the celebration of religious services in the cemeteries partakes much of the nature of our Decoration Day. The graves are, there, all decorated with flowers the same as those of our noble dead who lost their lives during the late war. In this observance the memory of the dead is kept fresh in the hearts of the living.
Arizona Gazette, May 13, 1884:
Dr J.E. Wharton has perfected arrangements whereby the government will have headstones erected at the graves of all soldiers and sailors on our cemetery. With this view, he desires information from all parties regarding the interment of soldiers, date of death, age of person, rank, company and regiment and identification of graves. The doctor thinks there are about twenty-five soldiers buried here, and that he may have their remains transferred to the new cemetery. The work is generally done by the G.A.R., and Dr Wharton being an ex-post commander has had sufficient influence to secure attention to the matter, so far as it relates to our city.
Arizona Gazette, May 17, 1884:
The new cemetery grounds are admirable situated and can be beautified so as to become a most appropriate resting place for our dead. In this connection, we would suggest the early removal by the city authorities and the beneficent societies of the remains of those interred in the old cemetery, upon which the city is fast encroaching. Already land upon which there are graves is claimed by private parties, and notices posted forbidding any further interments. Besides this, the main thoroughfare from the railroad traverses the grounds, which are unfenced, desolate and neglected. Certainly a stranger visiting the city would not form a very high opinion of our people in this first observance of the place. The new cemetery is soon to be fenced, and, with united action, can be made a credit to our people, instead of a reflection upon them. We earnestly trust that our suggestion, which is by no means new or original, will be acted upon during the present season.
Phoenix Herald, May 27, 1884:
The new cemetery will be fenced and laid off this week, when lots will be offered for sale. Now that accommodations of this kind can be furnished without the town limits the City Council should lose no time in forbidding further interment in the old cemetery. Lying as it does, right at the door of our beautiful city, and in the most irregular, dilapidated and disgraceful condition, it cannot but have a …nating effect from every stranger who comes into town as well as a deleterious effect on those who are compelled to dwell in the immediate vicinity of the “boneyard” it is; it is a disgrace to the term to denominate it a cemetery.
Arizona Gazette, Monday, December 8, 1884:
In consequence of the contemplated removal of the occupants of the old cemetery to the city potters field, very liberal terms are offered to purchasers of cemetery lots until Jan. 1st, 1885. For information apply to J.M. Gregory undertaker, Millay & Hines, agents or to J.R. Loosley proprietor.
Just prior to the recording of the new cemetery, the Masons, Odd Fellows and Knights of Pythias had laid out a burial ground which comprised the east one half of Block 32. It was filed for record with County Recorder Neri Osborn on July 15, 1884 and was planned and surveyed by Capt William A. Hancock who had also surveyed the original Phoenix Townsite. Several other lodges also buried their dead in these old cemeteries and the Ancient Order of United Workmen, a very old fraternal organization had a small burial plot there.
Arizona Gazette, Sunday Morning, September 11, 1887:
Notice - Sealed proposals will be received by the City Recorder until Saturday, September 17, 1887, at 3 o’clock p.m. for removing remains of the dead in the old cemetery, in the southwest corner of the old town of Phoenix, to the Potters’ Field in the cemetery at the west end of the city. Parties bidding may state whether they will do the work for a money consideration or take part of the old cemetery in payment for the work. After the graves are all removed the streets and blocks must all be cleared of brush or any other debris and smoothed off level, and the streets running through the blocks and around the same, graded. The party to whom the contract is let must give a bond to the city in the penal sum of $5,000, conditioned that he will faithfully complete the work in accordance with the contract, and must also advertise at his own expense for sixty days prior to January 1st, 1888, to enable parties having friends or relatives buried in the old cemetery, to remove the same before January 1st, 1888.
DeForest Porter, John R. Loosley, Geo. H. Rothrock, Committee
Arizona Gazette, Tuesday, October 11, 1887:
NOTICE Concerning old cemetery and the bodies Buried Therein.
September 27th, 1887, it was resolved by the Common Council of Phoenix, as follows to wit:
That no interments having been permitted in the old cemetery for the past two years, the same being in ruinous condition, will be wholly abandoned for former usages and devoted to other purposes.
That all persons having friends or relatives buried in the old cemetery, in Phoenix, and all society orders having members buried in said cemetery, are hereby requested to remove the same from said cemetery before the first day of November, A.D. 1887, or the same will be removed by the city and buried in the Potter’s field at the new cemetery. Published by order of the Common Council. Frank Baxter, City Recorder
Phoenix Daily Herald, Tuesday, December, 13, 1887:
Mrs. Fry today removed the body of her mother and King Woolsey from the old city cemetery to the new cemetery west of town. Mr. Woolsey’s body, though buried eight years, was in a fair state of preservation.
(unnamed newspaper) Phoenix, Arizona, Friday, January 4, 1935:
DIGGERS FIND HUMAN BONES
An old Phoenix cemetery was believed found today by workmen digging a hole for a tank at Sixth Avenue and West Madison.
Six feet from the surface, the men found the skeleton remains of a six foot red-headed person, believed to be a man. The skeleton was in a casket which had been sealed with “home made” nails.
Person familiar with that section of Phoenix years ago said that about 35 years ago, a cemetery extended over the area from Fifth avenue west. It is about nine blocks from the old cemetery on West Jefferson.
After consulting Justice of the Peace Nat McKee, the men reinterred the skeleton at approximately the same place where it was discovered.
The New City Cemetery
Arizona Gazette, Saturday, June 19, 1915
OLD CEMETERY TO GIVE WAY FOR CITY PARK
Jefferson St. Burying Ground to be Abated by the Commission
Around the old cemeteries between Thirteenth and Fifteenth avenues, Jefferson and Harrison streets, which are proposed to be done away with, clings much of the early history of Phoenix.
For several years it has been proposed to abolish these ancient burying grounds and to establish in their place a public park. The old cemeteries have been allowed to fall into decay, and surrounded as they are by some of the best residence property in the city and seldom if ever used for their original purpose, their removal and final abandonment will do much to improve the city and to remove what has long been recognized as a public disgrace and a public nuisance.
It is claimed that the first public in Phoenix was located on the ground where the West End School stood before it was burned down. The bodies there buried were removed to the new city cemetery in 1888 or 1889.
On July 12, 1884, William A. Hancock filed in the office of the county recorder a plat of the cemeteries of the Free and Accepted Masons, the Odd Fellows, and the Knights of Pythias, occupying the east half of block 32 of Neahr’s addition to the original townsite. These three properties occupied the Thirteenth avenue side of the block and extended from Madison to Harrison streets, the Masonic plot lying to the north, the Odd Fellows being in the middle and the Knights of Pythias to the south.
On Sept. 30 1884, T.W. Hines surveyed and platted the west half of the same block, which was called the City Cemetery. Of this several minor divisions were afterwards platted by John R. Loosley and W.L. Allbright.. Loosley filed two plats, one on June 5, 1889 and another on Feb. 12, 1896. The Allbright plat was filed on Sept. 28, 1884. As stated, these Loosley and Allbright plats were for portions of the original City Cemetery.
North of Madison Street, the Porter cemetery was dedicated by Lulu G. Porter on March 28, 1891. This comprises the south half of the block lying between Thirteenth and fourteenth avenues, Jefferson and Madison streets. On April 30, 1898 J.W. Walker filed the plat of Rosedale cemetery, being the block between Fourteenth and Fifteenth avenues, Jefferson and Madison streets.
From these descriptions, it will be observed that the six blocks bounded on the north by Jefferson street, o the south by Harrison street, on the east by Thirteenth avenue and on the west by Fifteenth avenue, have been dedicated for cemetery purposes with the exception of the half block between Thirteenth and Fourteenth avenues, Jefferson and Madison streets. The assessed valuation of this half block is $2090 and of the improvements, $75, a total of $2165, and it is said that the property can be bought at this time for about the assessed valuation.
None of the deeds or grants to lot owners in any of these cemeteries contained any provision for the upkeep and maintenance of the same and except for the plots owned by the Masons, the Odd Fellows, and the Knights off Pythias, the entire property has been allowed to run down and become covered with weeds until it is a disgrace to the city.
Many efforts have been made in years post to have the city acquire title to these lands and to have the bodies there buried removed to some cemetery farther out, but until now all efforts in that direction have failed. It is now proposed that the city shall exercise its statutory rights in the matter and have the cemeteries vacated and the property made into a city park, for which purpose the location is admirable.
It is pointed out that, under the provisions of chapter 11, sections 1947 et seq., of the civil code, the commission has ample power to vacate the property, the only condition being that it shall remove the bodies and the headstones and place them properly in another location. The exaction of section 1947 is: “Whenever and cemetery or ground used as a cemetery within the corporate limits of any town or city has been abandoned and ceases to be used for such purposes, or whenever in the judgment of the common council of such city or town the same is unfit or unsuited for such purpose or can be used for other public purposes to better advantage, the common council of such city or town may by resolution direct that such cemetery or ground used as a cemetery be vacated, and the remains of persons buried therein be removed to some other cemetery or suitable place, the expense of such removal to be paid by the city or town.” The following sections provide for the removal also of headstones and monuments and the marking of the new graves.
It seems agreed on all sides that the cemeteries should be moved and the statues seems to provide a complete method of so doing. Section 1949 provides that the cemetery sites shall be used “for such public purpose as the common council shall by resolution direct.”
The damage the presence of the cemeteries does to the adjoining properties is eloquently shown by the assessment figures. Lots across the street to the east are assessed at $385, while the lots a block away are valued at $755. Lots on Jefferson street are valued at $240, while the lots immediately to the north of these are assessed at $1150. The same relative conditions exist on the other sides of the cemetery lands and it is estimated that an increase in taxable values of not less than $20,000 would be created by the removal of the graves and the conversion of the property into a public park.
Arizona Gazette, May 17, 1884:
There was a very large attendance at the funeral services of the little child of Mr. And Mrs. A.C. Baker, yesterday afternoon- the procession being, in fact, the largest we have ever seen in the city. The little one was laid to rest in the new Masonic cemetery, and her grave is the first one there.
Arizona Gazette, Tuesday, March 22, 1887:
The Masons and Odd Fellows, in connection with Mr. Loosley, have perfected arrangements for the employment of a sexton, and Frank Demarlin has received such appointment. He will attend all interments, keeping a record of the same, water the trees and shrubbery and keep the graves in decent condition. It is desired that all orders for the digging of graves shall be left with him, and such work will be performed as cheaply as though given to an outsider.
Arizona Gazette, Saturday, March 1, 1890, p. 1:3.
C.T. Cousins is engaged in setting out trees in the city cemetery He will furnish and set out all varieties of trees or shrubs, commencing this month up to the 10th of March, and care for them until the 1st of Sept. He sets out the trees for $1.25 cents down and 75 cents payable Sept. 1st for every living tree or shrub. Residence near Neahr’s Addition. (C.C. Cousins- nurseryman- 1892 Phoenix City Directory. Beyond city limits on Jefferson.)
A deed dated June 5, 1894, was filed Saturday in the office of the County recorder conveying from Lulu G. Porter to the commander of the G.(sic) W. Owen post, G.A.R., certain lots in the Phoenix cemetery. An explanation of the delay incurred in filing the deed is made to the effect that it has been mislaid these four years or more, and was only found the other day. (Deed to lots 31 through 39 in Porter Cemetery.)
Phoenix Daily Herald, Wednesday, August 12, 1896, p. 8:3:
The fraternal of this city are back of a move to have the water main extended to the cemetery. The subject has taken tangible shape as the following explanatory note will show as to the cost, etc. The letter is a copy of that sent to each order that has grounds in the graveyard:
“Mr. Pratt conducts the water down Jefferson street to the northwest corner of Masonic burying-ground, and the cost of piping the water from there back through the Masonic, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias and A.O.U.W ground will have to be borne by the orders. It is estimated that the total cost, including hydrants and everything will be about $100.
During dry seasons of the year it is almost impossible to keep the plants alive; whereas, if we make a contract with Mr. Pratt we will have all the water that we want at all times.”
Arizona Republican, February 18, 1900, p. 5:3:
J.W. Walker to the Florence Crittenton Home, deed to lot 39, Rosedale cemetery: consideration, $30.
J.W. Walker to J.J. Meyer, deed to lot 1, Rosedale cemetery: consideration, $50.
The Arizona Gazette, Tuesday Morning, November 5, 1895:
The city council ought to enact an ordinance forbidding funerals from traveling on Washington street, or at least no more than one block. The city undertakers, with a view of advertising their business, put all of their business on this busy thoroughfare. The practice is an unsightly and dangerous one, as many teams take fright at the passing electric cars and make trouble in the procession. We think the practice ought to be stopped, and that at once. No city of any size in the union permits such a thing to occur, and Phoenix ought to move in the matter.
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